Stephanie Unaeze is a visual artist who describes herself as a person who loves and lives to create.
Her journey to step into the art world was largely inspired by seeing works from the likes of Frida Kahlo, Kehinde Wiley, Andy Warhol, and many more. A visit to the Warhol Exhibition in New York convinced Stephanie that art wasn’t just pretty portraits and landscapes. She discovered that through art she could speak on personal issues, societal injustices, capture a moment in time, etc.
For Stephanie, this was an opportunity to help change the narrative of Africa and how African art is seen.
Growing up, the artist remembers being in tune with the arts; dance, music, theatre and fine arts. She believes not attending an art school put her at a disadvantage, as she missed out on connecting with established artists, art institutions, creating in an environment bursting with fellow artists, etc. She has had to work twice as hard to create a foundation for herself over the years while growing as an artist professionally.
Stephanie draws inspiration from things around her, this is evident in her art as she tries to document her ideas. Her works cut across multiple genres and she describes this style as ‘Modern Afro-Pop-Surrealism’ — a mix of the art genres she is constantly inspired by.
Surrealism takes on the element of surprise and juxtaposition of images, while Pop art takes on the elements of popular culture. As a way of getting art closer to the people, Stephanie infuses African culture and lifestyle to give the Afro-Pop element in her pieces.
The artist’s main medium of use is acrylic on canvas, but depending on what works best for each piece/idea. This varies from watercolor to ink, oil pastels, or even a digital medium.
Inspired by life, culture, design, history, anthropology, fashion, film and literature has contributed to the varying themes in the works Stephanie creates. From collections or bodies of work and single pieces, her pieces traverse several themes thus allowing each piece to uniquely tell its own story.
The young artist uses her pieces as a tool to document the nuances, complexities and layers that surround modern lifestyle and cultural growth as they happen. A huge amount of research and documentation goes into putting together a piece. Some can take from one month to as long as a year to conceptualize. Reading journals and research papers, reaching and starting conversations with people who are more knowledgeable about a topic are some of the stages Stephanie goes through to bring a piece or body of work to life.
One thing that comforts Stephanie in her career as an artist is the fact that more women are being afforded spaces in the arts; owning galleries, curating and documenting, etc. She expresses hope that we get to a place where all that matters is the work put out and not the gender of the artist.
The striking thing about Stephanie’s works is how visually appealing they are and how they are thought-provoking, leaving one with a fresh perspective on what the work talks about. This is what the artist wants whoever experiences her works to feel.
Being able to express and think beyond the given, to Stephanie Unaeze, is integral to the work of any artist.
Stephanie runs a functional art studio called Stephanie Unaeze Studios which draws inspiration from the Mbari cultural practice of Eastern Nigeria, inspired by the main idea of making art more accessible. With the goal of everyday life experiences into art, locally sourced materials crafted from around Africa are made use of.